Young men who have sex with men (MSM) who have detectable HIV and are in care for the virus are more likely to report having sex without a condom than young MSM with fully suppressed HIV. Publishing their findings in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers studied 991 MSM ages 15 to 26 at 20 adolescent HIV clinics in the United States between December 2009 and June 2012.

A total of 688 of the participants (69 percent) had a detectable viral load, 458 (46 percent) reported having condomless anal intercourse, and 310 (31 percent) reported doing so with an HIV-negative partner.

A total of 266 (55 percent) of the men with detectable HIV reported intercourse without a condom, compared with 91 (44 percent) of those with an undetectable viral load. A total of 187 (35 percent) of the men with detectable HIV reported condomless intercourse with an HIV-negative partner, compared with 57 (25 percent) of those who were virally suppressed.

The authors caution that these findings cannot necessarily be interpreted to mean that having a suppressed viral load caused the differences in sexual risk. Additionally, the fact that the study only looked at men who were engaged in HIV care may limit the possibility of generalizing these findings to the wider population of young HIV-positive MSM.

To read a press release about the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.